How Old Is ‘Old’ For A Thoroughbred?

by | 07.06.2017 | 12:53pm

Gulch enjoying retirement at Old Friends Farm

Every year brings a handful of death announcements as stallions and broodmares succumb to “the infirmities of old age.” Whether the horse in question was in their early or late twenties, we usually get questions – doesn’t say, 25 years old sound young for a horse? And what exactly are the “infirmities of old age”?

Just as for people, there’s no hard and fast answer to the question of how long a horse can be expected to live. Generally speaking, ponies and miniature horses can live significantly longer than the average riding horse, and it’s not uncommon for them to reach their early or mid-thirties. Riding horses like Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses begin to show their age in their late teens or early twenties, though may live well beyond that. The oldest horse in the history books, according to The Horse magazine, was Old Billy, a barge horse born in 1760 who lived to be 62. Old Billy is the exception rather than the rule, with most riding horses living to be between 20 and 30. Draft breeds, much like large dog breeds, usually have a slightly shorter lifespan due to their size.

“I figure once they get to be about thirty, every day is a gift,” said Dr. Bryan Waldridge of Park Equine Hospital.

Waldridge treats the residents of Old Friends in Georgetown, Ky., which always includes some number of geriatric Thoroughbreds. Unsurprisingly, Waldridge said, a horse’s life expectancy also has a lot to do with their health history. Horses coming off the racetrack with more wear-and-tear injuries may see those injuries flare into problematic arthritis more quickly and viciously than those that retired sound. Past illness can also leave a horse susceptible to complications later; a horse that has recovered from kidney disease may be more vulnerable years later to a recurrence, as is true for colic. There are also individual differences; some horses are more sensitive than others to environmental changes that could cause colic.

 

 

Waldridge also believes genetics and attitude have something to do with it.

“I think some people just genetically live longer and I think it’s true in horses,” said Waldridge. “Gulch looked like he was going to live forever until he got cancer and then it was over in no time. He was one of the oldest, toughest horses I ever saw.”

Gulch, a longtime resident of Old Friends, was euthanized in 2016 at the age of 32.

As with people, the death of an older horse can be the sum of one or more gradually worsening problems, rather than one, acute bout of illness (with the obvious exception of colic), hence the vague phrase “the infirmities of old age.” According to a study of deceased horses 15 years old and up from the University of Kentucky’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, the causes of death for most geriatric horses were disorders of the digestive system and those of the cardiovascular system. About half the cardiovascular cases were caused by a uterine artery rupture, which is considered one of the possible complications for broodmares 15 years of age and up. Most digestive issues likely manifested as colic, which is still the most common cause of death for all horses.

Fifteen years old is also recognized as the benchmark for increased risk of a certain type of intestinal lipoma, a fatty tumor, that can cause fatal colic. Colic generally gets more common with age, and risks associated with anesthesia become more serious as a horse ages, so surgeons are less inclined to operate on colic cases in their late teens and early twenties.

Cardiovascular issues become more common because with time, walls of the heart valves become thickened and the valves can sometimes fail to close properly, allowing blood to leak through the valves, which makes the heart work harder. Waldridge sees a fair number of deaths from congestive heart failure for this reason in older horses.

Aging grays are also at increased risk for skin cancer. It’s fairly common for gray horses to develop tumors on their faces, necks, or around the rectum. Most of those tumors are not problematic on their own but can pose challenges if they begin interfering with an organ’s function.

“Unlike humans and dogs, they don’t tend to be malignant in horses but where they are, they tend to cause trouble and they really like the hind end, so a horse can’t pass manure,” said Waldridge. “I’ve seen them get so big the horse couldn’t raise their tail to pass manure.”

A horse’s teeth, which are constantly erupting through their gums throughout their lives, may also begin to wear down or fall out as they age, making it more cumbersome to chew tough feedstuffs like dry hay or grain. Additionally, older horses struggle to maintain weight during periods of extreme cold, even when fed appropriate diets.

A horse with any level of athletic function is at risk for developing arthritis as they age, and this can progress to the point it interferes with a horse’s day-to-day function, especially if the horse is already dealing with other illnesses.

All this means owners and managers often must weigh an older horse’s “infirmities” with his quality of life.

“My definition that I always tell people is that when they can’t walk around and eat grass pain-free anymore, then to me, it’s time to think about euthanasia. If they can walk around and eat grass all right, they’re pretty happy,” said Waldridge, who emphasized a horse that lives to 23 is not necessarily receiving inferior care to one that lives to 30. “I think you can’t do anything about genetics. If they’ve had some serious problem in their past, it may ding them somewhere and make them where if they get an injury or illness in the same body system, it’ll hit them harder. It’s genetics and what’s happened to them their whole life leading up to that point, it doesn’t mean anyone’s done anything wrong.”

Nail-Free Shoe Options For Thoroughbreds: Glue-Ons Prevail

by | 06.29.2017 | 9:49am

 

 

If you follow any fellow horse lovers on social media (and even if you don’t), chances are you’ve seen a photo of these nail-free, iron-free, colorful clip-on horseshoes sometime in the past several months. Photos of the Megasus Horserunners, as the shoes are called, have gotten a lot of attention on Facebook due to their bright colors and claims of a gentler, more supportive shoeing option for horses.

The Horserunners, expected to be available for sale later this year, are clip-on shoes with bottoms designed similar to human running shoes. The shoes are meant to be shock-absorbing and easily removed for riders who want to work their horses in shoes but turn them out barefoot. According to the company’s website, Horserunners are applied by placing two strips of Mega Lock tape onto the foot’s outside wall and adhering the shoe’s clips onto the tape strips.

So, will we soon see Thoroughbreds with equine running shoes color coordinated to their silks?

Pat Broadus, owner of Broadus Brothers Horseshoeing in Central Kentucky, has his doubts. A galloping Thoroughbred exerts roughly 30,000 pounds of pressure per square inch in his feet. Broadus isn’t convinced, from what he has seen of the Horserunners, the velcro-like tape combined with the shoe base would provide the right combination of adherence, traction, and slide needed to the hoof in that high-pressure situation.

 

“I’ve never seen a pair put on,” said Broadus, who had concerns about the tape used to adhere the clips. “It’s like Velcro. You know with Velcro, as soon as it gets dirty, it won’t stick anymore.”

 

Indeed, the target audience for Horserunners seems to be trail and casual riders, although initial tests suggests the clip-ons can withstand the force of jumping.

While the act of using nails to affix shoes is painless to the horse when done correctly, nails can pose problems. Horses with thin hoof walls can have shoes loosen, and nails can predispose the wall to cracks, chips or tears if the horse is stomping flies or steps on the edge of a loose shoe and pulls it the wrong way. Some horses, especially Thoroughbreds with thin walls, struggle to keep nailed-on shoes affixed.

If not clip-ons, what are the best options for racehorses needing a break from nails?

Broadus said glue-on shoes remain the standard for Thoroughbreds with special shoeing needs. They were initially found primarily in hospital settings but have become much more mainstream in the past few years.

“It used to be you’d go in a barn and it was taboo for them to have glue-ons, and now you’ll have three out of 20 with glue-ons on,” he said.

Broadus, who co-owns glue-on shoe company Hanton Horseshoes, says people have gained a better understanding of how to glue shoes to horses’ feet.

“When glue-ons first came around, everybody thought you needed a half a bucket of glue to glue a horse on,” he said. “I think we were way overkilling it and putting glue in places that didn’t need glue, and I put myself in that group. It’s the human mindset of, ‘More is better.’ It only sticks to so much. The more you put on, the more chance you have of part of it failing.”

Hanton’s shoes are a modified type of Victory Racing Plates with clips that rest against the outside of the hoof wall, and it is these that are glued on. More traditional glue-ons require a small amount of glue at the edge of the foot and are easy to remove as the hoof grows out, since the portion with the glue is often the part that would be trimmed off anyway.

Despite his involvement in the glue-on shoe business, Broadus said he only has about four horses actively wearing glue-ons across a practice with five farriers.

“I glue to get horses out of glue-ons, I do not put them on planning to leave them on for their entire life. That being said, I have done it when I’ve had a bad situation on certain horses,” he said. “A lot of times, I get a call to come put glue-ons on a horse and you’re not putting nails in so the feet grow out and they look beautiful, then they’re scared to go back to [nails].”

Broadus has one client whose top-level driving prospect had to be retired when he pulled a shoe, stepped on the nail, and developed an infection that spread to his ankle. She keeps her current driving horse in glue-ons for peace of mind, even though she acknowledges it’s unlikely such an accident would happen again.

The downside of glue-ons is they’re more expensive; some can run $75 to $80 a pair, a cost that gets passed onto the client. A pair of glue-ons cannot be reset after one use, which contributes to the bill, too.

Another option Broadus sees for Thoroughbreds needing a break from traditional shoes: hoof boots. Broadus has had good luck rehabilitating a horse on his farm with hoof boots for about seven months. Hoof boots have become better-fitted to horses’ feet in the past several years and have been a popular option among endurance riders negotiating significant mileage at a slow speed over tough terrain. He hasn’t had a request to try hoof boots from one of his racing clients yet, but he wouldn’t be surprised if it comes soon.

“I’m not so sure that that type of boot wouldn’t have its place at the racetrack at some point,” he said. “I don’t know that a horse would run in them because of the traction on the bottom. But I could see a horse come up with a bruised foot or something, and you put that on for a few days while you treat it. I could see where it would be a lot of protection. They’ve improved them so much.”

Pasture, for the Insulin Resistant Horse?

By Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D.

 

When is pasture safer for the insulin resistant (IR) horse – late afternoon or early morning? Google this question, ask your vet, or talk to a friend and you will get both answers!  How frustrating! It’s time we cleared this up.

Grass is a living organism and requires NSC (non-structural carbohydrates) for energy in order to grow. NSC is a measure of sugars, starch, and fructans and is produced through the process of photosynthesis when the plant is exposed to sunlight.

In general, the following are true: 

  • Grasses accumulate NSC as the day progresses, making them highly concentrated in NSC by the late afternoon.
  • Once the sun sets, grasses will metabolize NSC for energy, making them lowest in concentration in the early morning hours.

This pattern can be disrupted if the night temperatures remain below 40 degrees F (4 degrees C). When exposed to cold, grasses will hold on to NSC and not relinquish it during the night, making morning grazing less safe for the IR horse.

Other factors that increase NSC:

  • Stressors, such as overgrazing, drought, and too much rain
  • Mowing too short – limit mowing height to no less than 5 inches
  • Letting grasses go to seed
  • Fertilization stimulates growth

 

Warm season vs cool season grasses

Warm and cool season grasses behave differently during prolonged intense heat and sunlight[i]. Warm-season grasses (e.g., Coastal Bermuda and Teff) will naturally thrive during very hot, sunny days and accumulate substantial amounts of NSC by day’s end. However, cool-season grasses (e.g., timothy, brome, orchard, crested wheat grass, rye, fescue, as well as alfalfa) will actually be lower in NSC during periods of prolonged heat and sunlight, as long as the grass is adequately watered. This apparent contradiction occurs because heat and light stimulate the cool season plant’s enzymes that burn off NSC.

 

What about cloudy days? 

Here again, there is a difference between warm and cool season grasses. Photosynthesis still takes place during cloudy days. However, clouds usually cool down the temperature. This can potentially decrease NSC in warm weather grasses, but cool season grasses respond to cooler, more moderate temperatures with a higher NSC content.

 

It is a bit of an art form

You have to know your grasses. You can’t be passive about it. The best way to think about the NSC content in your pasture is to first know the type grass you have, which will give you an idea of what climates it prefers. Then, examine the amount of stress the grass is enduring. Stress will cause all grasses to be higher in NSC.

 

The best approach is to test your pasture

 It’s true that testing only provides a snapshot since grasses are living organisms and change from day to day. But you can get a good idea of how your grass is performing by testing early and late in the season.[ii]When testing your pasture:

  • Note the weather conditions on the day before you test
  • Choose a sunny day to take your samples
  • Take an early morning sample and a late afternoon sample and note the weather conditions

 

Interpreting the test results

 There are three measurements to consider:

1)      ESC (ethanol soluble carbohydrates): simple sugars

2)      WSC (water soluble carbohydrates): simple sugars plus fructans (long chains of fructose molecules)

3)      Starch: long chains of glucose molecules

Add ESC + Starch. You want this sum to be less than 11% (on a dry matter basis) to be considered safe for the IR horse. This is because ESC and starch digestion will raise blood glucose and cause a rise in insulin secretion from the pancreas. Elevated blood insulin is the basis for many laminitis cases.

NSC = WSC + Starch. If this number exceeds 13% (on a dry matter basis) and the ESC + Starch sum is below 11%, it tells you that the fructan level is elevated. Fructans do not significantly raise blood insulin and are generally not a concern. However, excessive fructan intake can possibly lead to cecal acidosis and endotoxin-related laminitis as a result of bacterial fermentation in the hindgut.[iii] There is a need for further, in-depth study since a dangerous level has not been established and studies using fructans have inconsistent results.[iv]

Fructans and starches vary according to the type of grasses. Cool season grasses and alfalfa tend to be higher in fructans, while warm season grasses accumulate starch. The sugar content of all grasses, however, can vary dramatically mainly based on environmental factors.

 

Bottom line

Pasture grazing is the best way to keep your horse healthy. Grasses are not only highly nutritious, but grazing supports both physical and mental health. Get to know your grasses and periodically have them analyzed to offer your horses grazing opportunities at the most opportune times and conditions.

 

This article updates and expands information in one of Dr. Getty’s previous Tips of the Month. Permission to reprint this article is granted, provided attribution is given to Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. No editorial changes may be made without her permission. Dr. Getty appreciates being notified of any publication.

 

Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. is an independent equine nutritionist with a wide U.S. and international following. Her research-based approach optimizes equine health by aligning physiology and instincts with correct feeding and nutrition practices. Dr. Getty’s goal is to empower the horseperson with the confidence and knowledge to provide the best nutrition for his or her horse’s needs.

 

Dr. Getty’s fundamental resource book, Feed Your Horse Like a Horse, is now in paperback as well as in hardcover, searchable CD and Kindle versions. All except the Kindle version are available at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com — buy the book there and have it inscribed by the author. Print and Kindle versions are also available at Amazon (www.Amazon.com); find print versions at other online retail bookstores. The seven individual volumes in Dr. Getty’s topic-centered “Spotlight on Equine Nutrition”series are available with special package pricing at her website, and also at Amazon in print and Kindle versions. Dr. Getty’s books make ideal gifts for equestrians!

 

Find a world of useful information for the horseperson at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com: Sign up for Dr. Getty’s informative, free e-newsletter, Forage for Thought; browse her library of reference articles; search her nutrition forum archives; and purchase recordings of her educational teleseminars. Find top-quality supplements, feeders, and other equine-related items, at her online Free Shipping Supplement Store[v]. Reach Dr. Getty directly at gettyequinenutrition@gmail.com.

 

 

[i] Watts, K., 2008. The influence of solar radiation and temperature on the diurnal fluctuation of NSC in grass. Rocky Mountain Research & Consulting, Inc. www.safergrass.org

[ii] Equi-Analytical Labs offers instructions on how to test your pasture. www.equi-analytical.com

[iii] Johnson, R.J., Rivard, C., Lanaspa, M.A., Otabachian-Smith, S., et. al., 2013. Fructokinase, fructans, intestinal permeability, and metabolic syndrome: An equine connection? Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 33(2), 120-126.

[iv] Crawford, C., Sepulveda, M.F., Elliott, J., Harris, P.A., and Bailey, S.R., 2017. Dietary fructan carbohydrate increases amine production in the equine large intestine: Implications for pasture-associated laminitis. Journal of Animal Science, 85, 2949-2958.

[v] http://horsesupplements.gettyequinenutrition.biz

 

Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory Announces Free App

The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL), is pleased to announce our free mobile app is available to download for both Android (Play Store) and iOS (Apple iTunes store) devices.
The TVMDL mobile app gives you the ability to search for diagnostic tests and get laboratory information.
Test information includes:
– A detailed description of the test.
– Specimens needed for testing.
– How to package and ship specimens safely.
– Pricing information.
– Test schedules and expected turnaround times.
Laboratory information includes:
– Link to driving directions to all four locations.
– TVMDL contact information.
– Billing and physical addresses for sending specimens.
– Hours of operation.
Coming soon – retrieval of test result reports

AAEP Announces 2017 Education Opportunities for Equine Veterinarians and Students

Equine practitioners can invest in practical veterinary knowledge in diverse areas of equine medicine through a slate of continuing education events in 2017, sponsored by the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

The schedule includes two Focus meetings, which present the latest evidence-based knowledge within a specific area of medicine; a 360° meeting that combines lectures and wet labs into an intensive “boot camp” experience; and the 63rd Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas.

360° Diagnosing, Imaging and Treating the Hind Suspensory and Stifle: Everything You Need or Want to Know: July 9-12 at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. Meeting sponsors are Boehringer Ingelheim, Dechra Veterinary Products and Sound

In sport horses, hind suspensory and stifle injuries are common but often underdiagnosed. At the AAEP’s 360° Diagnosing, Imaging and Treating the Hind Suspensory and Stifle, you’ll go from “how to” to “can do” with interactive, small-group training that employs a holistic approach to identifying and resolving lameness in these areas.

 

Focus on Colic/Focus on DentistryJuly 16-18 at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington, Ky. Sponsorship provided by Arenus and KEMIN, platinum level sponsors.

Increase your knowledge and ability to diagnose and manage the No.1 killer of horses at AAEP’s Focus on Colic. This meeting is a three-day exploration into the latest evidence-based knowledge to enable practitioners to assess abdominal pain, employ appropriate techniques and manage the condition medically and surgically.

Focus on Dentistry is an in-depth look at equine dental care—providing practitioners the means to perform a thorough oral exam, recognize oral pathologies, develop treatment plans, perform routine dental care and be introduced to advanced dental therapies.

Focus on Dentistry and Focus on Colic will be held jointly, allowing registrants to attend sessions of both meetings for one registration fee.  

 

Focus on StudentsJuly 15-18 at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington, Ky. Sponsorship provided by Arenus and KEMIN, platinum level sponsors.

Future horse doctors will gain hands on experience through clinical dry labs combined with professional development and career networking. Students will also attend sessions of Focus on Colic and Focus on Dentistry.

 

63rd Annual Convention: Nov. 17-21 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas

Anchored by more than 100 hours of CE, the world’s largest education event for equine veterinarians returns to the always-popular city of San Antonio to deliver the latest clinical knowledge in veterinary medicine.

 

To view the complete program for the 360° and Focus meetings or to register, visit https://aaep.org/meetings. The program and registration for the annual convention will be available this summer.

 

The American Association of Equine Practitioners, headquartered in Lexington, Ky., was founded in 1954 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and welfare of the horse. Currently, AAEP reaches more than 5 million horse owners through its over 9,000 members worldwide and is actively involved in ethics issues, practice management, research and continuing education in the equine veterinary profession and horse industry.

 

Hay Before Grain, or Vice Versa?

By Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D.

 

This is a recurring question that I receive. Which should be fed first – hay or grain?  If you’re feeding correctly, this issue is truly a moot point because the horse should have access to forage in hay and/or pasture 24/7 with no gaps. Therefore, when fed concentrates, the horse’s digestive tract should already have hay flowing through it.

But if you were to feed starchy cereal grains (oats, wheat, barley, etc.) on an empty stomach, the horse would produce more acid than normal, which could potentially lead to ulcers. Furthermore, grains leave the stomach quickly, increasing the risk that they will not be fully digested in the small intestine (especially if large amounts are fed), and end up in the hindgut where starch can be fermented by the resident bacterial population. This can lead to endotoxin-related laminitis.

A better approach is to have hay present in the stomach first. It creates a physical barrier for the grain, making it leave the stomach less quickly. The fiber in the hay mixes with the starch and the whole mass enters the small intestine to be digested. Fiber is not digested until it reaches the hind gut, but its presence slows down the digestion of starch, and obstructs the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, leading to a less dramatic rise in insulin.

Permission to reprint this article is granted, provided attribution is given to Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. No editorial changes may be made without her permission. Dr. Getty appreciates being notified of any publication.

Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. is an independent equine nutritionist with a wide U.S. and international following. Her research-based approach optimizes equine health by aligning physiology and instincts with correct feeding and nutrition practices. Dr. Getty’s goal is to empower the horseperson with the confidence and knowledge to provide the best nutrition for his or her horse’s needs.

Dr. Getty’s fundamental resource book, Feed Your Horse Like a Horse, is now in paperback as well as in hardcover, searchable CD and Kindle versions. All except the Kindle version are available at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com — buy the book there and have it inscribed by the author. Print and Kindle versions are also available at Amazon (www.Amazon.com); find print versions at other online retail bookstores. The seven individual volumes in Dr. Getty’s topic-centered “Spotlight on Equine Nutrition” series are available with special package pricing at her website, and also at Amazon in print and Kindle versions. Dr. Getty’s books make ideal gifts for equestrians!

 

Find a world of useful information for the horseperson at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com: Sign up for Dr. Getty’s informative, free e-newsletter, Forage for Thought; browse her library of reference articles; search her nutrition forum archives; and purchase recordings of her educational teleseminars. Find top-quality supplements, feeders, and other equine-related items, at her online Free Shipping Supplement Store[i]. Reach Dr. Getty directly at gettyequinenutrition@gmail.com.

 

[i] http://horsesupplements.gettyequinenutrition.biz

It’s Not Just You: Antibiotic Resistance A Challenge For Equine Veterinarians

by  | 03.24.2017 | 12:04pm
SMZs

Long hailed as the greatest advance in medicine, antibiotics have become the go-to treatment for nearly every scratch, cough, or fever, whether or not they were caused by bacteria. Many doctors and veterinarians began indiscriminately prescribing antibiotics simply because their patients expected — even demanded — them. This overuse of antibiotics eventually created today’s crisis, in both human and animal medicine: antibiotic resistance.

Dr. Ken Marcella, founder of KLM Equine in Canton, Ga., has been beating the drum for years to alert horsemen to the danger of overuse of antibiotics. Last year, he treated his first case of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in a horse. In humans, the disease is widespread, with government agencies requiring hospitals to screen incoming patients for MRSA to curtail its spread.

In equine medicine, researchers and practitioners are doubly concerned about antibiotic resistance because there aren’t that many types of antibiotics in their arsenal. If a disease becomes resistant to the antibiotic of choice for treating it, horsemen — and the horse — are in trouble.

“First-choice drugs out in the field are going to be things like the sulfas — Trimethoprim [SMZ] or Uniprim are still the #1 deal,” Marcella said. “Because [sulfa] is generally broad-spectrum, and it is real simple for the client to administer, I think it’s probably overused. So we try to hold off on that.”

Gimme some SMZs, Doc

Horsemen have become accustomed to stopping at the veterinary clinic to pick up a supply of antibiotics, either for a special case or just to have on hand. Marcella said his clinic has had a long-standing policy not to dispense antibiotics unless he has examined the horse. Even then, he may choose to allow the horse’s immune system to do the work.

“Say a horse presents with just a runny nose,” Marcella said. “A lot of times, if the horse is eating and drinking and its temperature and physical exam are normal, we’ll hold off on any sort of treatment.”

He’ll follow up with the owners to assure the horse is recovering and if it isn’t, he’ll do lab work to determine which antibiotic is effective against that particular bacteria.

“It really doesn’t help in terms of resistance if you go ahead and treat with the wrong antibiotics for 10 days and then find out it’s not working,” he said.

Marcella may turn to stronger antibiotics — penicillin, gentamicin, enrofloxacin, or the tetracyclines — but only after blood work or cultures indicate their need.

What is the risk?

Risk management Is the key factor in deciding if and when to treat with antibiotics. Some horses may be healthy enough to fight the bacteria on their own, while others may be more at risk because of their age and overall health.

Another consideration is the disease itself.

“If I think it’s a disease that if I wait and I’m wrong, the horse is going to have more of a problem, then I’m more likely to go ahead and start antibiotics if I think they are needed,” Marcella said. “Or if I go ahead and do [blood work] and there’s a good chance of an infection somewhere, I’m going to put the horse on antibiotics, even if I can’t find the source to culture it.”

Foal Pneumonia

foalRhodococcal pneumonia in foals is a deadly disease that begins as small focal points of infection in the lungs that eventually become abscesses. This insidious pneumonia infects the foal in the first days of life but does not show symptoms until the advanced stage months later, a point where little can be done to save its life. In the early stages, foals continue to nurse normally, and they even may appear bright and healthy.

Researchers have developed a way to identify and monitor lesions in the foal’s lungs using ultrasound. The lesions are graded on a scale of zero to 10. A companion study found that smaller lesions (less than Grade 2) are able to resolve without medical intervention. But with such a serious disease, are farms willing to take that risk?

Three Chimneys Farm routinely ultrasounds its foals’ lungs for R. equi, but the size of a lesion is not the only factor farm manager Chris Baker said they use to decide if a foal should be treated.

“Clinical signs, ultrasound, and blood work — those three criteria are what we rely on in determining our choice whether to treat,” Baker said. “We’ll follow those along, but we only treat when we feel we have an active infection that needs to be treated, not an inflammatory [condition] or a low-grade infection process that the foal is dealing with on its own.”

Alternatives

For serious infections, ranging from wounds to respiratory disease, Marcella prefers to use Excede, an antibiotic with effects lasting four days.

“If you get a puncture wound or a respiratory issue, four days of Excede and then re-evaluation is probably a better way to go,” Marcella said.

Researchers also are looking to natural cures as a way to fight antibiotic resistance. Natural honey has shown promising results. A Swedish study found the beneficial lactic-acid bacteria in a bee’s stomach is effective in treating MRSA, non-healing wounds, and other antibiotic-resistant diseases. Commercial honey does not contain the lactic-acid bacteria; the source must be fresh raw honey.

Researchers in the United States also are looking into the antibiotic properties of the metal gallium maltolate to treat wounds and Rhodococcal pneumonia.

“The biggest thing from us out in the field is not to jump on antibiotics for no particular reason,” Marcella said.

4 Proactive Steps to a Healthy Horse

A veterinary-directed wellness plan is an easy way to care for your horse

 

PLYMOUTH, MA – March 21, 2017 – At SmartPak, our mission is to support healthy horses and happy riders. One of the best ways you can help keep your horse healthy is by partnering with your veterinarian to develop an annual wellness program. With spring just around the corner, now is a great time to start thinking about a wellness plan for your horse.

Your veterinarian is the best source of advice on what is right for your individual horse, and will take into account factors such as age, workload, and any existing health conditions. “Working with your veterinarian is important to help spot problems early and keep your horse healthy,” said Dr. Scott Spaulding of Badger Veterinary Hospital, Janesville, Wisconsin. “A well-rounded wellness program includes four key areas to help your veterinarian evaluate your horse’s health: annual physical exam, dental exam, vaccinations, and deworming.”

 

Annual Physical Exam

During an annual physical exam, the veterinarian starts with a thorough visual inspection of the horse, and evaluates basic measures of health such as temperature, pulse, and respiration. Next, the veterinarian will listen to the lungs, evaluate skin and coat health, and discuss any specific concerns. The physical exam is also a great time for your vet to evaluate your horse’s Body Condition Score and discuss the horse’s nutrition program, including grain and hay. “For older horses,” said Dr. Lydia Gray, SmartPak’s Staff Veterinarian/Medical Director, “more frequent exams that include specific tests may be recommended, such as bloodwork to rule out conditions like Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, also known as Cushing’s Disease.”

 

Annual Dental Exam

Having your veterinarian perform an annual dental exam is equally important. Regular dental care is vital for maintaining your horse’s health, especially in senior horses or those prone to dental issues. Dental problems can lead to weight loss, decreased performance, and sometimes unwanted behavior. Having your horse’s mouth and teeth checked at least once per year is a smart way to spot issues early and take care of them before they cause problems.

 

Annual Vaccinations

Annual vaccinations are essential for the health of the horse and to help prevent disease outbreaks. While the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) core vaccine recommendations are Eastern/Western equine encephalitis, tetanus, West Nile virus, and rabies, it is important to remember to work with your veterinarian to determine a vaccination plan that is optimal for your horse based on your geography and other individual risk factors.

 

Deworming

Having your horse on a deworming plan is also an important part of responsible horse ownership. Your veterinarian is the best resource to develop a deworming program designed specifically for your horse and property. “In order to have an effective parasite control strategy,” said Dr. Gray, “it’s important to work with your veterinarian to create a deworming plan that includes fecal testing and targeted deworming based on those results.”

 

Horses that receive all of these essential services each year are not only staying healthier, they are also meeting all of the Annual Wellness Requirements for ColiCare, SmartPak’s free colic surgery reimbursement program. In addition to the wellness services performed by your veterinarian, simply feed any ColiCare eligible supplement in SmartPaks™ and you could be eligible for up to $7,500 of colic surgery reimbursement. SmartPak recently made it easier than ever to enroll in SmartPak by allowing horse owners to designate an agent, such as a trainer or lessee, to apply for ColiCare on their behalf. Learn more at www.SmartPak.com/ColiCare.

 

 

About SmartPak

From the feed room to the tack room, SmartPak offers innovative solutions to help riders take great care of their horses. SmartPak was founded in 1999 with the introduction of the patented SmartPak supplement feeding system. The revolutionary, daily dose SmartPaks are custom-made for your horse, individually labeled and sealed for freshness. With the success of this simple and convenient feeding system, SmartPak has continued to expand its offering of quality products, including its own line of more than 55 supplement formulas called SmartSupplements, and a wide variety of tack, equipment, and supplies. The company has grown rapidly each year and is now the largest retailer of equestrian products in the United States. SmartPak’s success has been powered by a passion for delivering an unbeatable customer experience, and the company has been recognized with a Bizrate Circle of Excellence award seven years in a row, as well as receiving an “Elite” rating from STELLAService. A nine-time Inc. 500/5000 honoree, SmartPak is the only equine company ever named to the Inc. 500 list.

How to Perform CPR on a Newborn Foal

 

How to Perform CPR on a Newborn FoalBegin administering chest compressions immediately to any foal born not breathing and without a heartbeat. Photo: SallyAnne L. Ness, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM

It’s bad news when a foal enters the world without taking a breath. But there’s some good news: Many foals born with beating heart and pulse, but who fail to breathe, can be revived via cardiopulmonary resuscitation (more commonly known as CPR). And there’s more good news: Both owners and veterinarians can perform CPR on a foal in need. The key is to be prepared in advance and not to wait until it’s too late to learn this potentially life-saving skill.

To that end, SallyAnne Ness, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, reviewed how to perform CPR on newborn foals at the 2015 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention, held Dec. 5-9 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ness is an internal medicine specialist at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in Ithaca, New York.

Be Prepared

Ness said many veterinary clinics keep portable neonatal crash kits prepared and handy. These kits should contain the products needed to deliver life-saving oxygen to foals that fail to breath upon delivery.

She also recommended that veterinarians have on hand the injectable medications that can aid resuscitation when a foal’s heart rate gets too low or stops beating—epinephrine (adrenaline) and vasopressin (a hormone that raises blood pressure and helps maintain blood flow to the heart and brain). She also suggested printing a dosing chart ahead of time to prevent errors if medications are drawn up and administered in a hurry.

When the Foal Arrives

Ness said veterinarians and foaling attendants should rapidly assess any foal that fails to move and/or breathe upon delivery. She recommended:

  • Placing him in a sternal position (on his abdomen with tucked-under legs) and clearing the airways;
  • Identifying any rib fractures and/or congenital deficits;
  • Auscultating (listening with a stethoscope) the lungs and heart; a healthy foal’s respiration rate should be 20 to 40 breaths per minute and pulse should be 60 to 80 beats per minute, she said;
  • Palpating for pulses; and
  • Clamping the umbilicus.

This assessment should take less than a minute. She suggested giving several people specific jobs—one team leader, one to listen to the heart and lungs, etc. She also said attendants should be prepared well in advance for high-risk pregnancies or foalings.

The foaling team’s job is easy if the neonate’s heart is beating and he’s breathing properly. If he’s not breathing, however, it’s time for them to begin attempting resuscitation.

First, rub and dry the foal, she said. Sometimes tactile stimulation helps prompt the foal to breathe. Poking the muzzle and nostrils with straw can also incite a reflex that prompts the foal to take a breath. If he isn’t breathing after 10 to 15 seconds, he’ll need ventilation.

Ness said intubation is the easiest option and can be approached either through the foal’s nasal passages or his mouth. In this instance, the veterinarian will extend the foal’s neck and pass an endotracheal tube into the trachea. Then, he or she will inflate a cuff to seal the tube within the trachea and connect an Ambu Bag, which allows the veterinarian to administer breaths to the foal.

Alternatively, veterinarians and foaling attendants can use a non-intubated approach. Ness said in this case, the attendant can use a mouth-to-nose approach. To do this, Ness instructed, “You block the lower nostril (the one closest to the ground as the foal lies) with your hand and blow into the upper nostril.” Another non-intubated option is a mask with a self-inflating air pump made specifically for foals. This last option is probably the easiest and safest choice for foaling attendants and nonveterinarians, she added.

Regardless of which option the veterinarian or attendant uses, Ness said the goal is to apply 10 breaths per minute, holding the first inspiration for three to five seconds and then using quick, short breaths after that. She recommended reassessing the foal after 30 to 60 seconds.

Handling Foals Without a Heartbeat

“A foal born not breathing and without a heartbeat for any length of time is unlikely to respond to CPR,” Ness said. “But you have nothing to lose doing CPR on a dead foal. It’s doing something instead of nothing. Some can come back if the arrest began right at birth.”

She recommended beginning chest compressions immediately. The veterinarian should maintain a straight back and locked elbows and place one hand on the other on the widest part of the foal’s chest wall. Then, using his back and core muscles, begin applying 100 to 120 compressions per minute, aiming to compress the chest by one-third with each compressions. Ness noted that an easy way to get an appropriate compression rhythm is by mentally singing Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees and compressing along with the beat. Ironically, she laughed, Another One Bites The Dust by Queen has a similar beat and could also be used to achieve an appropriate compression rhythm. She recommended having the foaling team take turns performing compressions in two-minute cycles to prevent fatigue.

Ness said the foal should receive 30 compressions for every two breaths. If the animal is intubated, she said the compressor doesn’t need to stop. If he’s not intubated, the compressor should stop every 30 seconds so breaths can be administered. Additionally, veterinarians can administer epinephrine every four minutes to aid in revival, she said.

When to Stop

Ness recommended continuing CPR until the foal is breathing on his own and has a heart rate over 60 beats per minute. She recommended that foals that do respond positively should still be monitored closely for relapse.

She noted that if a foal fails to respond after 15 minutes, success is unlikely.

Take-Home Message

Knowing CPR and being prepared in advance to administer it to foals in need is essential for both veterinarians and foaling attendants.

“CPR is a rewarding and life-saving procedure that can result in a positive outcome when delivered quickly and with proper technique,” Ness relayed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

Myth: A Shiny Horse is a Healthy Horse

By Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D.

 

Fat from any source will make your horse shiny. A fatty substance called sebum, secreted from the sebaceous glands in your horse’s skin, increases when the diet is higher in fat. It coats the hair, making it reflect the sun’s rays. Any fat will do; the type of dietary fat doesn’t matter when it comes to making the hair coat shine. But it sure does matter when it comes to your horse’s health.

 

The converse is true – A healthy horse is a shiny horse…

As long as he’s shiny for the right reason – because you are feeding the right type of fat! With so many feeds and supplements available, where do you start?

 

Start with what comes naturally

Fresh grass contains 2-3% unsaturated fat consisting of a variety of fatty acids that vary in their chemical profile. There are two specific essential fatty acids that the horse’s body cannot produce and therefore must be in his diet: The omega 3 known as alpha linolenic acid (ALA), and the omega 6 known as linoleic acid. Grasses contain both of these in a 4:1 ratio of ALA to linoleic acid.

Most commercially prepared horse diets, however, have an inverted ratio of these two fatty acids because high linoleic acid fat sources such as soybean and corn oils are added to boost the fat concentration. When the omega 6 content exceeds the omega 3 content, you are asking for trouble.

 

Linoleic acid leads to inflammation

While some linoleic acid is important, too much can exacerbate your horse’s inflammatory response. Horses who are in training, working, or performing produce inflammation in their joints and muscles that can worsen when high amounts of linoleic acid are present. The aging joints of older horses are more painful when this omega 6 fatty acid is fed in large amounts. And inflammation leads to oxidative stress, which can damage all tissues throughout the body.[i]

 

ALA reduces inflammation

 Omega 3s block the formation of inflammatory molecules that are readily formed from omega 6s. Take a close look at the fat sources you are feeding to confirm that enough omega 3s are in the diet.  Read the ingredients and note the concentrations. Manufacturers of products that are high in soybean oil, for example, will often tout that the product contains omega 3s. This is true, but misleading. Soybean oil does contain about 7% omega 3s. But what they don’t tell you is that 50% of the fatty acids in soybean oil are from linoleic acid (omega 6).

 

The table below provides a better understanding of oils and oily feeds:

 

 

Approximate Fatty Acid Percentage in Oils and Oily Feeds

 

Oils and oily portion of feeds Saturated  Monounsaturated (Omega 9)[ii] Linoleic Acid (Omega 6) Alpha Linolenic Acid (Omega 3)[iii]

 

Camelina oil 13 19 16 38
Canola oil 7 54 30 7
Chia Seeds 10 7 19 55
Coconut oil[iv] 91             6 3 0
Corn oil 17 24 59 0
Flaxseeds  9 19 14 58
Hempseed oil[v] 10 12 55 18
Olive oil 16 75 8 1
Rice bran 17 48 35 1
Sunflower seeds 12 16 71 1
Soybean oil 15 26 50 7
Wheat germ 18 25 50 5

 

Hay has virtually no fatty acid content

Once fresh grass is cut, dried and stored, the naturally occurring unsaturated fatty acids are destroyed by oxygen. If hay is the predominant forage source for your horse, it is critical that you add a fat source that offers more omega 3s than omega 6s. Ground flaxseed or chia seeds are best for omega 3s. When supplementing, limit the amount fed to no more than ½ cup ground flaxseed or ¼ cup chia per 400 lbs of body weight (120 ml per 180 kg of body weight). The dosage for flaxseed oil should be 1.5 tablespoons per 400 lbs of body weight (22.5 ml per 180 kg body weight).

 

Not all equines are the same

Equines such as ponies, minis, donkeys, and mules cannot tolerate as much fat as horses. They require some fat, but generally 1/3 to 1/2 the amount given to horses, proportionate to their weight.

 

Bottom line

Read the ingredient label on any feed or supplement designed to add more fat to your horse’s diet. The ingredients may be imbalanced. While it will make your horse shine, it may do nothing to contribute to overall health and worse, it may actually increase inflammation.

 

 

Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. is an independent equine nutritionist with a wide U.S. and international following. Her research-based approach optimizes equine health by aligning physiology and instincts with correct feeding and nutrition practices. Dr. Getty’s goal is to empower the horseperson with the confidence and knowledge to provide the best nutrition for his or her horse’s needs.

 

Dr. Getty’s fundamental resource book, Feed Your Horse Like a Horse, is now in paperback as well as in hardcover, searchable CD and Kindle versions. All except the Kindle version are available at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com— buy the book there and have it inscribed by the author. Print and Kindle versions are also available at Amazon (www.Amazon.com); find print versions at other online retail bookstores. The seven individual volumes in Dr. Getty’s topic-centered “Spotlight on Equine Nutrition” series are available with special package pricing at her website, and also at Amazon in print and Kindle versions. Dr. Getty’s books make ideal gifts for equestrians!

 

Find a world of useful information for the horseperson at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com: Sign up for Dr. Getty’s informative, free e-newsletter, Forage for Thought; browse her library of reference articles; search her nutrition forum archives; and purchase recordings of her educational teleseminars. Find top-quality supplements, feeders, and other equine-related items, at her online Free Shipping Supplement Store[vi]. Reach Dr. Getty directly at gettyequinenutrition@gmail.com.

 

[i] There is another omega 6 that is not as prevalent in the horse’s diet, known as gamma linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is receiving attention for horses’ diets because unlike linoleic acid, GLA actually reduces inflammation. GLA is found in significant quantities in hempseed oil (see note v below), and is also found in evening primrose oil and spirulina.

[ii] Omega 9s are another classification of fatty acids that do not promote inflammation and may protect the heart and blood vessels.

[iii] Fish oils are also high in omega 3s. However, ALA from plants is converted to the longer chain omega 3s found in fish oils.

[iv] Coconut oil is popular, but it has no omega 3s. Therefore, if you feed this as your only source of fat, your horse will become deficient in this essential fatty acid. He’ll be very shiny, but he will be unhealthy. Coconut oil is more than 90% saturated, with a smidgen of linoleic acid. The saturated fatty acids exist mostly as medium chain triglycerides (MCT), which is controversial because these types of fatty acids do not exist in grasses. However, MCT are metabolized differently from saturated fats and may be beneficial for metabolically challenged horses.

[v] Hempseed oil also contain approximately 2-4% Gamma Linolenic Acid, a beneficial omega 6 fatty acid known to reduce inflammation.

[vi] http://horsesupplements.gettyequinenutrition.biz

 

 

Permission to reprint this article is granted, provided attribution is given to Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. No editorial changes may be made without her permission. Dr. Getty appreciates being notified of any publication.